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Franco Basaglia and the radical psychiatry movement in Italy, 1961-78, by John Foot

This article comes highly recommended from me. It’s a fair and clear analysis of a subject that can be confusing and misleading to the British reader. The successful reform movement in Italy may appear to be some kind of radical Marxist affair at first glance. Yet its simply not as black and white as that. To call that time some victory of socialist ideas completely misunderstands what was going on as you’ll find out in the article. Foot describes Basaglia as not being dogmatic which translates through to the extraordinary history of “democratic psychiatry”. Another word Foot uses is “polycentric”. The movement was made up of many strands and its not fair to dismiss it as some kind of 1968 revolutionary excess. The movement was also not some forgotten “eccentric experiment” restricted to a unique time in purely Italian history. The experience has gone on to inspire major reforms across the world, yet the movement is barely if not completely unknown in Britain. The word “reform” in the UK is bandied around every five years or so, but its a cynical excuse to pretend to be “helping the mentally ill” that has been completely sanitised – and censored – of anything smacking of Basaglia’s radically successful analysis of WHY we have a problem with psychiatry in Britain. Namely damage by psychiatric drugs and electroshock. Drugs that are known to be damaging. So why drug anyone with them at all ? There is only one reason. Because those people are treated as things, as objects. They are not treated as real people, if they were then damaging drugs would simply not be used at all. It’s a simple as that.

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